Jaiya Astacio blames herself for much of what has happened to her mother, Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio.
The 18-year-old says the most recent episode in what has become a local legal saga is her fault.
“It was drama,” Jaiya said. “It was lots of drama and we didn’t need any more drama and it kind of sucks that I brought all that in anyway.”
The drama started in February of 2016 when police found Leticia pulled over on the side of the road.
She was subsequently convicted of a DWI. She then plead guilty in November to blowing into her car’s interlock device after drinking, which is not allowed in the terms of her sentence. At the time, she said she did not know she was not allowed to drink.
On April 29, another interlock violation registered, which opened up the possibility that Leticia tried to drive after drinking, but Jaiya is adamant that is not what happened.
Jaiya says the night before the reading she had come upon a friend sick from alcohol at a local park and offered a ride and let her stay at her house. To thank Jaiya the next day, Jaiya says her friend tried to use Leticia’s car to get coffee and blew into the device from the passenger seat.
Jaiya says she assumed no one would care because it happened so far from the original DWI offense.
“I didn’t tell my mom because I didn’t want her to know I smuggled a drunk person into our house,” Jaiya said.
Jaiya says her mom left the country days later to stay with monks and provided photos to News 8 of her mom in a monastery as proof.
Asked why her mom left for Thailand amid this professional crisis, Jaiya said, “She just wanted to go and get away from this, which is completely understandable because this has been (more than a year). How many DWIs do you go to jail for? This is unprecedented.”
Jaiya says when her mom stepped onto that plane she did not know the interlock violation would result in an order for a urine test.
She missed that test and Jaiya says her mom did not receive the initial email telling her she was needed back in the U.S. for another court hearing.
After all that, she was sent to jail.
“I want this all to be over, I want them to leave my mom alone,” Jaiya said.
Throughout this entire ordeal, Leticia, 36, has remained her daughter’s role model.
“My mom had me when she was 17,” Jaiya said. “She finished high school then she went to law school and she opened a private practice after she worked for the DA’s office and became one of Monroe County’s first black and Hispanic judge and one of the youngest judges in Monroe County and that’s a pretty impressive feat.”
Jaiya argues those accomplishments should be part of the discussion even though she thinks the discussion should have never come up in the first place.
Asked what she would say to people who argue this case is different from other DWI cases because her mom is a sitting judge and takes in a taxpayer-funded salary of $173,000 even after her supervising judges pulled her off the bench, Jaiya said, “I don’t know why we hold these people to such a higher standard. At the end of the day, they’re just humans, just like you and me and there are details of this case that are frequently overlooked.”
Jaiya added that her mom continuously smiles throughout the court proceedings “because you can’t break her, no matter what you can’t break her. My mother is a happy, vibrant person and no matter what you throw at her, no matter what you do to her, she’s still her.”
It has not been so easy for her family.
Jaiya said this when asked how she reacted to learning her mom was going to jail until early July: “I broke down … I was sobbing, sobbing, sobbing and (my mom) was like, ‘I’m strong, I’ve got this under control, they cannot break me. I am unbreakable, but if they break you guys, I’m done.’”
Jaiya also insists her mom does not have a drinking problem.
“I know people whitewash their parents’ sins, but I don’t think she does, at all,” she said.
Jaiya emphasized at the end of the interview her overarching desire to go back to their normal lives, expressing the wish to see her mom handle cases from the bench again.
Whether that happens is largely up to the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is months into an investigation into Leticia Astacio’s case.
Jaiya reached out to News 8 offering this interview saying her mom had asked her to act as a family representative while she finishes up her jail sentence.